PARK WATCH December 2020 |

It has taken two years, but the state government’s final strategy to control Victoria’s million-strong deer invasion has at last been released.

This time the strategy appears to be under the control of the Environment Minister, loosening the control of the Game Management Authority and hunting groups. That’s a big improvement from the unpopular earlier draft version, but serious shortcomings remain.

  • Bizarrely, these highly-destructive pests remain a protected game species. As a concession, the state’s land managers no longer have to apply for permission to cull deer, but the absence of legal pest status means the environment department is not actually obliged to control these animals. (Parks Victoria must control all feral animals on land under the National Parks Act 1975, but controlling deer in state forests and other public land apparently remains optional for the authorities.)
  • Rather than clearly setting out a management strategy, the document calls for a series of Regional Deer Control Partnership Groups across the state, which will develop Regional Plans. There’s benefit in this approach, which should bring landowners, hunters, professional pest controllers and land management agencies together at a local level. But it means we could be looking at another two years of fumbling before effective action takes off. • There are no targets or timelines, or calls for significant resources. The Environment Minister has initially allocated $1 million for action around Melbourne’s north-east borders, but made no commitment to the rest of the state.
  • The appendix has a couple of inadequate lists of affected threatened species and communities, focused on East Gippsland. But cool temperate rainforests (see the adjacent article) are among the forgotten communities and species the strategy forgot.
  • The strategy lacks ambition, only aiming to protect ‘priority’ areas. But rainforests, alpine areas, threatened species, wetlands, national parks, vineyards, orchards, and of course and roads, exist across the landscape. A landscape-scale reduction in the deer population is needed.
  • The strategy’s answer to the rampant illegal relocation of deer populations by irresponsible hunters is a polite education program. Strong penalties and an enforcement plan should be in the mix for this highly problematic practice.

Update: The state government has announced a further (and very welcome) $18 million dollars for deer control over the next four years.


Read about ‘Deer destroying the Dandenongs‘ on page 12 of the print edition of Park Watch December 2020.


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